Dispelling the concerns around utilizing remote proctoring systems

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Remote proctoring gets a bad rap. Critics have called it “creepy” and “anxiety-inducing,” and say it may not even be effective when dealing with a dishonest student with clever tricks. But according to the Online Learning Consortium , 76 percent of faculty believe that undergraduate students do not have a sufficient understanding of what plagiarism is. Thus, faculty and administrators are constantly increasing their efforts to promote academic honesty among students, which includes utilizing remote proctoring solutions.

Meanwhile, enrollment in online courses is increasing , and flipped classrooms and hybrid programs are becoming more common . Schools are seeking to maintain a competitive edge in this rapidly expanding industry of distance education. The global online education market is projected to reach a total market size of $287 billion by 2023, increasing from $159.52 billion in 2017 (in U.S. dollars).

This means more students are taking exams remotely, which further heightens cheating concerns. When stakes are high, the pressure for students to get good grades on exams and coursework increases — thus creating an environment where cheating potential is high. Remote proctoring, which uses technology to allow students to take an exam anywhere in the world while ensuring the integrity of the test, can be the solution to these issues.

Some students go to great extremes to pass an exam — whether the student has a hidden earpiece in, pays someone to take the test on his or her behalf or inconspicuously tries to access an electronic device.

Faculty and administrators may feel defeated by the drastic measures students will take to cheat, but the reality is students who want to cheat are going to find a way to do so. If a university is going to offer online learning, it needs to ensure the integrity and rigor of the course, the test-taking and the degree. Remote proctoring systems have become increasingly sophisticated and are gaining wider consideration for high-stakes testing — and eliminate the need for faculty to police the process to ensure the student’s integrity.

However, some opponents of remote proctoring complain about the ease of cheating these systems, and consider them to be intrusive, excessive and a violation of civil liberties.

According to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative , a wide range of ethical considerations accompany software that takes video of students. Some of the services are more intrusive than others, and students may need to allow a proctor to access their entire computers, including their mouse, which can cause an unnerving experience for many before taking a test.

There have been instances where the proctoring program shows a live image of test takers on the screen to constantly remind them they are being watched. Students may also be required to sit upright and remain directly in front of their webcams at all times, as even stretching, looking away, or leaning down to pick up a pencil could flag the test.

Despite these issues, online courses that do not provide a secure means of assessment may not be regarded as reliable by other accreditors.

To ensure an institution is using an effective remote proctoring system that puts both faculty and students at ease, the solution should be noninvasive and protect the student’s privacy. Proctors should not have to access a user’s machine to verify test compliance. Instead, the security measures need to be integrated and automated to ensure proper compliance and client privacy, while lessening security risks and providing a smooth user experience.

Viable remote proctoring systems should also be integrated with an institution’s learning management system. Single sign-on and automatic data transfer saves faculty time by eliminating their need to set up tests. Faculty should be able to define rules, configure assessments on an exam-by-exam basis, and adjust exam policy as needed to accommodate custom resources. Further, customized business rules with the remote proctoring solution allows faculty and institutions to adapt the flagged behaviors and resolution paths with the proctor, ensuring that it targets the issues most relevant to the institution.

To combat naysayers’ arguments about students’ ability to cheat during a remote proctored exam, proctors need to be trained and certified in order to properly understand cheating behaviors, but also to provide students with great customer service. Given the anxiety that taking any test produces, proctors must be prepared to help put students at ease and troubleshoot technical issues, while also authenticating their identity and identifying misconduct.

The increased adoption of online education has caused faculty and administrators to include safeguards against cheating on assessments, and remote proctoring systems can be a reliable way to enhance integrity in today’s global online classroom without invading students’ privacy.

Rory McCorkle is the senior vice president of certification and education services for PSI . During his career, Rory has worked with over 750 testing organizations, including well-known universities and colleges, licensing bodies and renowned certification programs.

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